Friday, April 22, 2016

Best Care for Vulnerable Refugee Children in Europe.

This is a very difficult post to write. It's a politician's responsibility to consider long term consequences alongside instinctive short term humanitarian responses. Doing what is right can sometimes not be the same as that which constituents are calling for. Responding to the plight of vulnerable refugee children in France (and other European states) is just such an issue, and a major challenge for our Government.

Like many MPs I have received emails, perhaps 30 or so (mostly as part of a lobbyist's campaign) asking that I pressurise the Government into giving vulnerable unaccompanied children who are currently in France a home in the UK. And vote accordingly. I'd love to agree, but I cannot, because it would be the wrong thing to do.
I have long called for the Government to allow more Syrian refugees into the UK. And long before a photograph of a little boy drowned on a beach touched our national consciousness. I accept that we have to be very wary of terrorist sympathisers taking advantage of the 'cover' provided by refugees, but I do think we could and should do more. Many people disagree with me on this issue. 

However, I do want to acknowledge that the Govt has listened to calls from MPs, the House of Lords and the public about the relocation of unaccompanied children from within Europe. The Govt tells me it has considered how best the UK can provide assistance and protection to unaccompanied refugee children from Syria and other regions of conflict, and to those already in Europe.

Identifying and responding to the needs of vulnerable and at risk refugee children must be a clear priority for any government. The starting principle must be that the best interests of children are put first, and any policy that places children at additional risk or encourages them to place their lives in the hands of the people traffickers and criminal gangs must be avoided. In any response, it is vital not to inadvertently create a situation in which families see an advantage in sending children ahead, putting their lives at risk by attempting perilous sea crossings to Europe. We must never inadvertently help the criminal traffickers.

Since the beginning of the conflict in a Syria, my view has been that the UK should respond to the desperate tragedy arising from conflict in MENA (Middle East and North Africa) by taking in more refugees. Even though any resettlement programme by the UK can only make a minuscule impact on a humanitarian problem of such a scale. I am pleased that the Govt has just announced the launch of a new resettlement scheme to resettle ‘Children at Risk’ from the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region. It's important that we set an example to the world. But let us not pretend it's anything but a drop in the ocean. There are millions of refugees in camps on the Syrian border. They are huge numbers being slaughtered or just starved to death. There are 10 million displaced Syrians. It is a tragedy almost beyond comprehension.

On the UNHCR’s recommendation, the new UK scheme will not just target unaccompanied children, but will extend to all ‘Children at Risk’ as defined by the UNHCR. And it will extend to 'at risk' groups and nationalities within the region, not limited to Syrians. Through this category the UK will resettle the most vulnerable children accompanied by their families where the UNHCR deems resettlement is in the best interests of the child. Several hundred individuals will be resettled in the first year. 3000 will be resettled over the lifetime of this Parliament, most of them children. This will be in addition to the resettlement of 20,000 Syrians under the Syrian resettlement scheme already agreed.

There are several other UK initiatives as well. For example, experts in dealing with people trafficking will be sent to Greece to support vulnerable groups, including children. This will ensure that vulnerable people, including children, are identified and can access asylum procedures as quickly as possible. This is in addition to the work undertaken by the Anti- Slavery Commissioner, Kevin Hyland, to visit hotspots and assess what more can be done to ensure unaccompanied children are protected from traffickers.

And the Department for International Development (DFID) has created a £10 million Refugee Children Fund specifically to support the needs of vulnerable refugee and migrant children in Europe. This will be used to support the UNHCR, Save the Children and International Rescue Committee. The overall aim will be to help children reunite with family wherever possible.

I fully support Government action to tackle the global refugee crisis, in particular by helping children at risk. And I fully support taking action where it has the most impact in region. I agree with all those who have emailed me about the importance of helping vulnerable children, and offering more opportunity to come to live in the UK. But the greatest need by far is to help vulnerable children in the MENA region. 

UPDATE The House of Commons comfortably defeated what is called the Dubs amendment which proposed bringing unaccompanied refugee children into the UK from France. I have received genuinely offensive communications from a few who seem not to realise the amount of thought and preparation which supports my position. I do think the Dubs amendment has helped the position, leading to Govt willingness to work with the UN to take in more refugees from the camps, where millions are living in appalling conditions. I cannot support taking refugees in from France, which is a sympathetic country, inadvertently giving encouragement to traffickers sending refugees to death in the Med, at the same time as moving our focus from the millions being killed, starved in camps on the Syrian border. And if Im to be condemned for that, so be it.


RedMaggs said...

I am sure that is exactly what the USA said to Anne Franks family when the refused them asylum - but hey ho she wouldn't have become famous from her diaries - she would have lived a full life and perhaps had a family of her own instead of dying at the age of 15

Bril said...

What I don't understand is how the responsibility of the leaders of nations in conflict seems to be ignored in such debates. Assad and others should treat their people well, or be held to account.

R n B said...

Surely "what's best" would be to have not become involved in the displacement of various Middle East leaders in the first place:- Saddam Hussein for a start, then Assad. Aiding the opponents of those leaders has helped to create ISIS. The subsequent military involvement, including the UK, has been directly responsible for many of the refugees trying to escape the madness of war.
The article at the link below is heart-rending, well written, and explains clearly why this crisis has reached the scale it has.

Angel1964 said...

I don't care about borders and I know I would be ashamed to even consider voting to turn a blind eye to these desperate children. Shame on you and all the other MP's who vote to ignore the plight of the kiddies in France.

Glyn Davies said...

Yes Bril, leaders should be held to account when they commit war crimes against their own people, but not if it creates the sort of humanitarian tragedy we see in Syria, or a failed state which may be developing in Libya. Some leaders are evil (Saddam and Bashar al-Assad) Britain played a minor part in removing the former, but took no action on the latter. I think we were right in both cases. Removing the Libyan dictator does not look such a wise move now though, and I did support that.
RnB arguable points. Many would agree with you. Not sure the UK gas been involved in trying to remove Bashar al-Assad. MPs specifically voted against that. Actually no MP voted for action against Damascus. No such motion was put to MPs . The UK has become involved in driving back Daesh though - rightly in my view.
Angel - I respect that you feel as you do. But my responsibility it to try to help vulnerable children, without causing even more of them to fall prey to evil traffickers. Not sure you should assume that you or Lord Dubs care more about the safety of vulnerable children than I do. Or anyone else who thinks the Dubs amendment would be harmful to the prospects of refugee unaccompanied children.

RedMaggs said...

Strange not a single mention of me :(

And YAY the rest of you

Glyn Davies said...

Sorry Maggie. 'Twas nothing personal. Just wasn't a comment to which I had any appropriate answer.

Nicola said...

This is such a basic issue and it makes me so angry that you have chosen to buy into this argument. The fact is that there are 3000 children that you could have voted to remove from a horrific situation, and you chose not to. Your argument is totally circular and I also find it incredibly arrogant that you present it as potentially 'saving' more children.

Sorry to seem personal but I really can't remember when I have been so sickened by a choice you, as my 'representative', have made.

By the way, what's the difference between a "lobbyist's campaign" and what you are saying here? ("The Govt tells me" etc etc). I mean, I've noticed that you always vote according to the whip.

superhandland said...

I'm fed up with MPs using excuses, especially saying we cannot be emotional. Why not? Why can't we be human? Show humanity? There is no excuse. We are a rich continent and we have the resources. We need political change now. This system is failing completely, and this is just another example. I'm so angry that this is happening in Europe. It's so shameful. People will look back at this, and wonder why this happened. Why can't Europe get a proper strategy in place for these people who are the same as us, and just need help. Start making human decisions. Be emotional, get angry. Do things that make sense. #diEM25

Ann Jones said...

Glyn i cannot believe that you would not want to give those poor children a chance.There are many of us who would love to be able to help these children but because of your government & MP's like you, we are not given the chance to help.When we are all fed & warm at a night i hope you give those poor innocent children a thought.

Glyn Davies said...

It would be one hell of a lot easier to just accept refugee children from France. But not so easy for anyone who knows it would a huge mistake, and damaging to the interests of the 10,000,000 displaced people in Syria. A lot easier to shrug shoulders and do what I know is very wrong just for an easy life. Must admit I would be disappointed if the Government simply said okay to taking refugees from another EU country (as peaceful and civilised as the UK), accepting a role as recruiting sergeants for people traffickers in MENA, seeing more people being taking perilous journeys across the Med, and shutting eyes to the horrors of the camps. I wouldn't have to take the vile abuse on twitter, and negative stuff on my social network space. But doing the right thing is sometimes not easy. Still feel strong enough to stand against the abuse and do what's right.

R n B said...

Glyn - I'm sure most understand that taking a "right" stance is difficult. Why, though, taking in refugee children from EU countries is wrong I cannot begin to understand. The children are already here in Europe. The traffickers have already had their filthy lucre and I believe they won't care or even, perhaps, know about our policies. Just take whatever they can from whoever has the money.
Society is at fault - our Western standards of greed and selfishness, that developing countries seek to emulate, is badly flawed. It's truly humbling to go to a "poor" country and experience their welcoming generous spirit - especially when you realise that what they are giving you, as an honoured guest (even though they have no idea who you are) is fairly much all they have.
As for doing what is "right", there are very few absolutes in this world and what is right today may be wrong tomorrow. The dogma behind the supposed weakness of changing ones mind is simply closed-mindedness. And for the present government to be so closed minded to human suffering, both in this country and abroad, is going to be viewed in the future as barbaric. Especially for those who have so much yet constantly scrabble for more.
Only when the individuals who make up society can answer, for themselves, the question "what is enough?" will the ridiculous greed of the West be curbed. The God of money needs exorcising!

Robin Larder said...

I 100% agree with your stance and have said the same myself.

Tom Bidwell said...

This is a very difficult question, just how many "unaccompanied children" are there at Calais?, it is reported that when the camp was removed recently several thousand children disappeared, did they return to their families who are living locally ?, there is no doubt that children are being used as bait to ultimately get the whole family into the Uk under family life provisions. To me ,it is inconsiderable that children as young as five (reportedly) have managed to make it unaccompanied from Syria, practically who payed the traffickers at each frontier, where they carrying large sums of money, if so why where they not robbed?, who fed them? I feel that it is much too easy to fall into a trap over this one